Whether you like to draw, paint, write, sculpt, bake or carve, there’s nothing as magical, empowering, or satisfying as creating “something new that never was before.”
With My Hands: Poems About Making Things, written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson (Clarion Books, 2018), celebrates the joy of turning an idea into something real and tangible with your very own hands.
The 26 mostly rhyming poems cover everything from soap carving, knot-tying and origami, to making birdhouses, pinatas, toy parachutes, tie-dye shirts, leaf pictures and collages. The opening poem reveals the unique power and province of the maker (love the thumbprint art!):
I am making
with my hands
That’s what makers do.
A maker starts with
an empty space
must be tough.
A maker is
A maker will
A maker creates
All the lovingly crafted poems are charming, engaging, accessible, and fun to read aloud. Thanks to Amy’s skillful use of diction, rhyme, rhythm, pacing, and repetition, the poetic forms perfectly reflect the activity being described.
In “Soap Carving,” a whale slowly emerges “bit by bit” from a bar of soap, as we sense the speaker’s patience and determination in what can be a lengthy process. By contrast, the speaker in “Tie-Dye Shirt” relates in rapid fire fashion the easy steps she took:
I made a tie-dye.
Didn’t buy it.
The rewards of homemade vs. store-bought are also touted in “Card,” where a young boy decides to make his own Father’s Day card rather than buy one, since “No dad is like mine.” And in “Spaceship,” a boy realizes he’d rather build his own toy after the spaceship he made from the box directions fell short of the ones he sees “rocketing” inside his mind every day.
While reading about process, motivation, and pride in accomplishment, I especially liked the different personalities that emerged, the unmistakable child-like voices that will no doubt resonate with readers:
I cut a parachute from plastic
tied my guy on with elastic
threw him from a window (drastic)
watched him drift to earth — fantastic!
The icing on the cake for this strong and balanced collection might be the ingenious concrete poems. The words in “Glitter Picture” are randomly sprinkled across the page as we revel in Amy’s masterful use of assonance and alliteration: “a starry stream of winking sprinkles drizzle on my picture in a glinting glowing gust as I sing and scatter glitter dazzled by its diamond dust.” And then there’s the fabulous “Knitting” — where alternating phrases are presented on a slant in two columns to replicate stitches interweaving. Love!
Fancher and Johnson’s ebullient mixed media illustrations, rendered in acrylic, crayon, ink, colored pencil and cut paper collage, beautifully capture the unleashed spirit of creativity, and embody the very essence of handcrafting.
The enthusiasm and exuberance are contagious; readers will find themselves reaching for the nearest paint brush, pen, pair of scissors, mound of clay or sketchbook, as they see examples of the projects described in the poems and want to get in on the fun.
I also love the diverse group of makers and the subtle gender bending (a boy knitting!). Nature photos and various cut paper patterns add texture and interest, while body language and facial expressions depict the sheer enjoyment of making.
The title and final poem, “With My Hands,” addresses the transformational power of art: “For the thing that I made/is a part of me now./I changed it./It changed me.” What could be better?
Here are several more of my particular favorites (yes, there’s one about baking, my favorite art!). Enjoy!
I learn to draw by watching.
I learn to draw from books.
I pay attention to my life.
I notice how it looks.
When I see a spider
I do not hurry past.
I pull out paper, pencil.
I sketch quietly, and fast.
I learn to draw by staying still.
I follow every line.
I love to draw because I know —
what I draw is mine.
Hold a lump of clay.
What does it want to be?
Make a coil.
Set it free.
You will hear it tell you
what it is
what it is not.
And you will know
if you should shape
or a pot
You’re not even looking
but you know
we have been cooking
for we’re filling
up the kitchen
with a smell
of something good.
We are stirring
eggs and butter.
clouds of flour
busy bakers should).
And these goodies
we are making
were a batter.
Now they’re baking
Will you help us
eat them up?
We knew you would.
I roll and stack
I give him
one blue eye
a carrot nose
my cowboy hat.
At last I say
You’re looking good.
His rock teeth
form a grin.
I hug a mug
with my hands
when I go in.
Well, after those last two poems, we simply must hug a mug of cocoa and polish off some cookies in honor of Amy, Lou, and Steve. Congratulations to all of you awesome makers, and thank you for creating this book with your hands, your heads, your hearts!
WITH MY HANDS: Poems About Making Things
written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
published by Clarion Books/HMHCo.
Poetry Picture Book for ages 4-7, 32 pp.
*On shelves March 27, 2018
♥️ Enjoy the cool book trailer:
🖍 SPECIAL BOOK GIVEAWAY! ✂
The publisher is generously donating a copy of With My Hands for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment at this post telling us about one of your favorite things to make no later than midnight (EDT) March 30, 2018. You may also enter by sending an email with “HANDS” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good Luck!
🍰 WHEN PAUL MET ARTIE GIVEAWAY WINNER! 🎶
Really enjoyed hearing about your fave Simon and Garfunkel songs and memories last week. You mentioned a few songs I hadn’t heard in a long time and it was nice to listen to them again.
We are pleased to announce that the lucky person who’ll receive a brand new copy of WHEN PAUL MET ARTIE is:
🌷 TABATHA AT THE OPPOSITE OF INDIFFERENCE! 🌼
🎉 CONGRATULATIONS, TABATHA! 🎈
Please send along your snail mail address to receive your book.
Thanks to everyone for entering the giveaway. 🙂
2018 NATIONAL POETRY MONTH KIDLIT EVENTS ROUNDUP
I will be posting a roundup of kidlit events again in April. If you’re doing something special on your blog and you’d like to be included in the roundup, please send your info and links to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Would appreciate your helping to spread the word, too. Thanks!
The lovely and talented Laura Purdie Salas is hosting the Roundup at Writing the World for Kids. Drop by to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being shared in the blogosphere this week. Enjoy your weekend!
*Interior spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 2018 Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrations © 2018 Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson, published by Clarion Books. All rights reserved.
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***Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.